~ Posted by Robert Butler, January 27th 2012
In a blog post last week we noted how Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, was giving mothers-in-law a good name. An example of the opposite can be seen at the movies. Listen to the New Yorker on Vanessa Redgrave's performance as Volumnia in "Coriolanus": "Every mother-in-law joke you've ever heard, along with every Oedipal fantasy, is distilled into this formidable figure..."
Critics have called Vanessa Redgrave's performance "magnificent" and "one of the best of her career", yet she hasn't been nominated for either an Oscar or a Bafta. Volumnia's great scene occurs in Act 5 of the play. It's one of those moments (described in our current Notes on a Voice on Shakespeare) when the playwright pulls off a favourite trick: the 180-degree turn. Redgrave manages to persuade Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus to change his mind and not to sack the city of Rome, even though—if he draws back at this stage—it will probably lead to his own death. Late in the movie, Redgrave plays on Fiennes's mind with great delicacy and force.
The Daily Telegraph's critic reports the interesting theory that quite a few voters (he's talking about Bafta voters) may have stopped watching their complimentary DVDs halfway through "and thereby missed some of the best acting of Redgrave’s life". Did the same happen in America? Either way, Vanessa Redgrave joins Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton and Albert Brooks as very strong candidates who were passed over by the Academy of Motion Picture. That line-up alone would have made 2012 a good year for the Oscars.
It's hard not to feel that the biggest players in Hollywood get the most votes. Film critics have described "War Horse" as "a pre-packaged brand” and "sentimental, fulsome, platitudinous". Yet it picked up six nominations. The Guardian writes that the movie's "frankly laughable nomination is unlikely to have transpired were the name 'Steven Spielberg' not below the credits." If you were pushed for time, of course, you could get a fair idea of the most spectacular bits of that movie from watching the two-and-a-half minute trailer. But to appreciate "Coriolanus", you'll need to watch it all.
Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life. He interviewed Ralph Fiennes about "Coriolanus" here